“I miss the English,” says Martin Amis from his home in Manhattan. “I miss Londoners. I miss the wit.” So what’s wrong with Americans?
[T]hey’re very, well, de Tocqueville saw this coming in about 1850 – he said, it’s a marvellous thing, American democracy, but don’t they know how it’s going to end up? It’s going to be so mushy that no one will dare say anything for fear of offending someone else. That’s why Americans aren’t as witty as Brits, because humour is about giving a little bit of offence. It’s an assertion of intellectual superiority. Americans are just as friendly and tolerant as Londoners, but they flinch from mocking someone’s background or education.
It’s too bad, really, if only because humility—a characteristic that’s in rather short supply these days—is bred out of mockery.